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Recognising the real enemy in Gaza

By Jed Lea-Henry - posted Monday, 18 August 2014


Although the Israeli military offensive in Gaza has been enormously destructive, and has inflicted intolerably high levels of human suffering, Israel has also gone to considerable effort to avoid civilian casualties through a series of multifaceted early-warning mechanisms for the residents of Gaza - much of which have become a source of derision and satire in the international media. Though, if we are comfortable in criticising Israel for causing civilian deaths, then it is only reasonable and intellectually honest to credit Israel where and when they seek to avoid causing civilian deaths.

In contrast, Hamas have inexplicably defied Israeli attempts to minimise casualties by ordering the populations in northern Gaza to ignore advanced warnings to evacuate, have routinely used schools, hospitals and densely-populated residential areas as normative protection for missile launch sites and military storage. They have also, without exception, broken every single achieved humanitarian cease-fire of the current conflict, thereby denying the people of Gaza the chance for respite, the chance to resupply, and importantly the chance to negotiate for a lasting peace.

Such behaviour is only comprehensible by an understanding that Hamas is either indifferent to the suffering of the Gazan population, or are actively seeking a perceived international moral currency supplied by their deaths.

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Moreover, Israel have invested considerable resources into creating the ‘Iron Dome’ missile defence system, have also developed an early-warning system for incoming rockets fire from Gaza, have built easily accessible public bunkers, and have effectively secured itself against internal attacks, thereby significantly diminishing any would-be Israeli causalities.

In contrast, Hamas has invested considerable human and material resources not into defending or developing Gaza, but rather into building tunnels into Israel (significantly difficult engineering exercises), and in building a stock-pile of increasingly sophisticated missiles (approximately 4000 have been fired at Israel in the latest conflict alone).

By virtue of the fact that it has not occurred, whereas the capacity exists if they were inclined, it is clearly not the intention of Israel to cause large-scale civilian deaths. If it were otherwise, there would be a very real and complete genocide in Gaza - 1.8 million deaths as opposed to the current 1800. In contrast, hypothetically what would Hamas do to the almost 8 million Israelis if they only had the capacity to do it? Indeed intentions do matter.

Just as with Russia’s invasion of Crimea, not all injustices can be corrected if the violating party wills it otherwise. At least not without maintaining a grasp on proportionality. By denouncing violence, disbanding its military factions, recognising Israel’s right to exist, and pursuing only peaceful political objectives, Hamas has a chance to build international support for its position, and hopefully a long-term peaceful solution. This may not be ideal nor appeasing to the pride of a subjugated people, but there is simply no other option – and certainly no realistic military option against an adversary as strong as Israel.

Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), and Fatah’s president in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, exclaimed just this sentiment last month on Palestinian TV by rhetorically asking Hamas “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?...We prefer to fight with wisdom and politics”. Accordingly, international support for Fatah and the Palestinians in the West Bank is considerably more forthcoming, to the point of achieving ‘Observer Status’ at the United Nations (technically inclusive of Gaza). And, in the process drawing unambiguous international condemnation against Israeli settlements and obfuscations of the long-term peace process.

Ask yourself a simple question, not “what are Hamas doing in response to Israel?” but rather, “in spite of Israeli injustices, what are Hamas doing for the good of its own population?”. While the first question does not require much mental effort in order to answer, the second question can only be answered disingenuously, or with ahistorical references.   

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Currently, Gaza more resembles a permanent refugee camp than a state, and Hamas is primarily responsible for this situation. Yet, on many accounts, Hamas still enjoys popular support within Gaza. One can only hope that this is a veneer obscuring an underlying and steadily growing public resentment. And, as was the case in Serbia in 2000, such suppressed resentment will eventually erupt into popular uprising, not against foreign inflicted suffering, but rather against their own governing authority for continually inviting that suffering, and for continually forcing them into a position of victimhood. Yet, in as far as this is not the case, and Hamas enjoys a very real and deeply visceral popular support from the residents of Gaza, this can only be explained as a mass expression of Stockholm Syndrome.

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About the Author

Jed Lea-Henry is an Australia born academic. After graduating from La Trobe University with majors in Political Science and Philosophy, Jed completed his post-graduate education in International Relations at Deakin University. His research has covered a broad range of topics, including humanitarian intervention, civil conflict, violence prevention, regional development and moral philosophy. Jed is currently an Assistant Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences at Vignan University, and the host of the Korea Now Podcast. You can follow his work, or contact him directly at http://www.jedleahenry.org/

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